An Interview with
Jeff Christie and Lorenzo Gabanizza
(conducted by Jason Barnard on his Strange Brew website).
Q: What was the recording
and production process for I
Don't Want To Live Without You and your
JC: It was very much an international effort. Lorenzo is in
Italy and I'm in the UK. Other musicians were in the UK and
US with production in the US.
LG: I did first myself the acoustic guitar parts and pilot
lead vocals and back vocals. Then, instrument after instrument
like a puzzle.
I had an idea from the start
and I wanted the song to sound as it sounded in my head, because
I felt that any slight diversion from it would have negatively
impacted the final result. I even wrote parts to the drummer,
so that he may play it exactly the way I needed. Nothing is
left to chance in this song.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit
about the accompanying
music video for the song and its creative direction?
JC: Again, Lorenzo did his in Italy, I did mine in Leeds,
UK, at a friend's house who had a grand piano. I always sing
'live' when doing TV or video shoots, even into a dead mic,
as it helps to give the performance of the track some authenticity.
It also helps to get into the soul of the song rather than
just miming which I always felt was a bit plastic.
LB: Well, I think the video represents perfectly the meaning.
I won't tell you the story, because I don't want to spoil
the surprise for those who haven't seen it yet, but it really
is a ghost story
or a love story, depending on the
perspective in which you watch it.
The video features me, Jeff and the
talented Martina Sacchetti. Martina is a great actress who
made her name on the big screen and in theatre and her ability
to perfectly catch the deep "heart strings" is amazing.
The direction is by Oscar Serio, who's
a skilled and amazing director and videomaker. We had a long
chat before starting the shooting. He had an idea, I had mine,
we managed to meet halfway, if I can say so. Well, it's a
powerful video and it's influenced by my love for Emily Bronte
and her novel.
From the first shot you breathe a gloomy atmosphere, made
up of deep, radical feelings, almost as deep as a burning
centre of the earth. Those same feelings that make up the
eternal and that permeate Emily's novel. I am particularly
proud of our job, which has been recognised in multiple festivals
Q: How did you go about selecting
the musicians including the Fortunate Gospel Choir (who sound
fantastic) to perform on this single?
LG: When I chose Fortunate Gospel Choir, I had in mind the
epic gospel tunes of Elvis and the amazing work of JD Sumner
and above all, the Sweet Inspirations. The words that most
represented the song were: large, deep, epic.
While we were almost done with the
recordings, I sensed that the song missed something. So, as
Yokshire fogs were inspiring me, I contacted a talented piper
born in the North West of England: Catherine Ashcroft. I asked
her to play uillean pipes all along the song.
Jeff did an outstanding job, his voice
is top-notch and his interpretation beautiful. Same I may
say for all the other involved: Kev
Moore, who did a wonderful bass line with a 70's
Fenton, who laid down those drums as they should;
Richard Curran and his strings, John Heinrich, Mike Casteel
and Tanner Bayles with their precious contribution on winds.
Everyone had his task and everyone
did it at the best: for this reason, I thank them all and,
last but not least, Stefano Bedini, who did take care of my
recordings in Italy and the "Great Magician" Corey
Moore. I am surprised he didn't get mad at me or, worst, he
didn't lose his mind during the hard work, hours, days, trying
to get closer and closer to my vision.
Q: Your previous collaborations
have been very successful. Did you expect them to be so well
received, and what do you think contributed to its popularity?
JC: For me the first and foremost level of success is the
quality and performance of the song which I feel was achieved
on all three of my collaborations with Lorenzo, regardless
of other gains.
If we did our job right that's the
most important thing that really matters to me. Obviously,
it's great to get approval and even some financial reward
if only to offset what it costs us to do this work but if
not, we'd still do it as it's lifeblood to those that are
passionate about their craft of which we both are.
LG: Well, there are two parts of the story. One is what I
expect for the song, two what I think the song deserve.
If you consider my three singles with
Jeff, well, trying not to think that it's my songs, they would
deserve much more in terms of popularity. But when it comes
to expectations, I never have a lot. I know the music market
is made by some big brain up there and I am born in the wrong
historic time to hope something for myself. I don't close
the doors to hope, but I wait on nothing from the world.
Q: Throughout your musical journey,
have there been any artists or musicians who have had a significant
influence on your work or inspired you in any way?
JC: So many, but at the drop of a hat my influences start
with an unbroken line from Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mahler,
Rachmaninov and Puccini, flamenco, fado and gypsy music, The
Shadows, The Ventures, Duane Eddy, through to the Great American
Songbook songwriters and on to the Brill Building songwriters,
Bacharach and David, Goffin and King, Mann and Weill, plus
Boudleaux Bryant/Orbison, Randy Newman, Jimmy Webb, Elvis,
Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Larry Williams, Eddie Cochran,
Holland Dozier Holland, and numerous Motown acts and writers
plus lots of Northern Soul and into the '60s, with obviously
Lennon/McCartney, Pete Townsend, Ray Davis, Brooker/Reid (Procol
Harum), Henley/Frey, Becker/Fagin partnerships and on and
on; sometimes great songs from artists that were just brilliant
one-offs, but as you can see the list is endless. In one way
or another all these great singers, writers and musicians
inspired and informed my own education and progress in the
art and craft of song writing and performance.
LG: Well, yes. Many indeed. Above all, there is an Olympus
in which Zeus is Jeff Christie
joking here, but not
Jeff was my inspiration since my childhood,
maybe even before as my mom loved his music before I had any
knowledge of myself. My musical influences, they are as wide
as the ocean. My parents had a monstrous collection of vinyl
of every genre, from Italian popular music to twelve-tone
music. And everything in between.
Art is like a smell, it sticks to
you, therefore, in a certain way, I have the artistic smell
of what I have experienced and penetrated me over the years.
If I should mention names, in music, I would Say: Jeff Christie
on top of the mountain, Elvis Presley, Donovan, Bob Dylan,
Neil Diamond, Johnny Rivers, Brian Hyland, Bread, Queen, Edith
Piaf, Southern Comfort, and all that bright, romantic, poppish
British music from the 70s like Marmalade, Stamford Bridge,
Kincade, John Carter. Also classics, like Tchaikovsky, Sibelius,
Grieg, Smetana, Chopin, Glinka or Irish music, Kate Bush
But you know, it's not like art and
composition have limits. So, when I write a song, I don't
just refer to my musical taste, but also to my literary taste,
therefore, that's where what you call "unique sound"
comes from. From my readings, from my love for Andersen's
fairy tales, Celtic traditions, Capote's adamantine prose
and Proust's swirling introspections; the delightful brushstrokes
of Dickens, the tragic odes of Keats, the poetic abstractionism
of Virginia Woolf and always, the moor of Emily, the scent
of wet earth, of the fog, of the rock
to form an aesthetic sense that it then explodes into creation.
Q: What do you think is the most
important skill for a songwriter or musician to have?
JC: Obviously to begin with a passionate love for music and
the overpowering need to create it, and next, to listen and
learn from the greats how the process of song writing works,
not just the ability to be instrumentally creative and proficient
but on an emotional level.
In short, the songwriter has to find
a connect to the listener that is at some level primal and
infectious, seducing the listener to internalise and possess
that strange feelgood buzz from the song. Maybe
that sounds a little pretentious, but there really is some
kind of magic alchemy in creating music and to try and explain
that is tricky and more than a little mysterious.
LG: To create a bridge through their souls. In a certain way,
a songwriter is a speaker, a communicator, so he has to tell
Be true and have the skill to dig
as deeper as possible. In few words, a good songwriter is
the one that has his own voice and has the power to communicate
to others his message.
The single was previewed on The Official US TOP 20 Radio
Q: What can fans expect from your
JC: I don't pretend to know what fan's expectations of our
collaborations are. I can only say that as writers and artists
we both follow our respective muses and hope people will like
what we do. Together and individually
I believe we write for ourselves, in a way that has meaning
for us as individuals. Surely isn't that the only honest way
LG: Expect emotions, feelings, power, and much diversity.
Q: Jeff, I have some questions for
you. What was your experience like working with Lorenzo? Did
you find any similarities or differences in your musical styles?
JC: Lorenzo first and foremost is an artist of integrity and
professionalism. It has been easy to work with him as he is
fast and reliable and brings consistency and quality to the
table. He has passion in spades and has a positive can-do
He also has humility which is endearing,
especially in an industry that is renowned for false prophets,
egotists and the 'next big thing'.
Obviously, we all have egos, but some
more than necessary. Naturally we have our differences, musical
and otherwise, but enough common denominators and a shared
love of the many seminal musical influences for us to relate
to that hopefully give us some credibility in what we do.
Q: What songs from your career are
you the proudest to have written and why?
JC: Yellow River has been a song
that over the years has brought forth all kinds of mixed emotions.
There was a time when I wished it hadn't been the monster
number 1 global hit because it's such a tough thing to follow
and every song that comes after can be seen in some quarters
as a failure if it isn't a chart-topper.
Then I got over it when I saw how
many big artists either recorded it or praised its worth and
that gave me the time and distance to view it as so many others
have done, and what is now generally perceived in the music
industry to be a classic from arguably one of the greatest
popular music eras.
That said I am proud of what I feel,
is to have over the years progressed my ability to write good
songs that have their influences firmly rooted in a golden
age of songwriting that I was fortunate enough to be allowed
I have recently just completed an
album of original songs over the last three years that I am
very proud of and as I'm the strictest quality control enforcer
I know and trust, at least in my mind, it says something,
at least to me, that I can still get that all important buzz
listening to them.
Some of the other older songs I'm
proud of would be Freewheeling'
Man, Inside Looking Out, Pleasure
and Pain, For
All Mankind, If
The Dawn, Fool, Set Yourself Free, Wild
Grows The Heather, Troubadour, Back On The Boards,
Another Point Of View, Turning
To Stone. All these songs are previously
released and available on Spotify and other digital platforms
as well as CD and vinyl by either Christie or Jeff Christie/Outer
Q: Could you share any memorable
moments from your time touring and performing with Christie?
Any particular shows or moments that stand out to you?
JC: So many from the touring days of the '60's and 70's, '90's
and noughties and too many to include here, but a few standouts
were touring with Hendrix
whilst in the Outer Limits in the '60s, when one
Ian Kilmister would try and augment his roadie income by tapping
everyone up for a fiver: eventually obtaining the name Lemmy
as his first line of conversation would invariably be 'Lemme
a fiver pal'. Don't know if he ever tried it on with Jimi.
Outdrawing Santana in Bogotá
in the 70's and then being supported on tour by upcoming crooner
and heartthrob Julio Iglesias. Having to have oxygen cylinders
on stage with two nurses at some of our stadium shows in Columbia
due to the high altitude. After every other number we'd have
to take a few steps to the side of the stage to get a blast
of O2 from the nurse who duly administered it through some
kind of breathing mask like the WW 2 pilots had to wear, and
then bounce back for the next number.
Touring Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay
and Columbia then rolling on to Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua
and Guatemala in the early '70s. Also being one of the first
bands to play in Poland-whilst that country was still under
communist rule from the Soviet Union. We did a TV Spectacular
from Sopot that was beamed via satellite right across the
USSR in 1970, and when Christie played in Russia in 2001,
people were coming up to me saying they'd seen us on that
same Sopot TV Show in 1970 and had waited all that time to
see us performing live in Moscow and St Petersburg. That was
a memorable and unforgettable experience, humbling also.
Q: How does it feel to hear your
songs interpreted by different musicians, and do you have
any favourite covers of your work?
JC: Well, from a starting point, if you accept that imitation
is the highest form of flattery then obviously that is very
pleasing thought, even though many are straight copies.
There are some that are quite imaginative
and there are many examples of artists and musicians who pick
up on not just the most well-known hit songs but more obscure
ones from previous albums. They are
the ones that I find intriguing and often more satisfying.
There are instrumentalists that just play along either on
drums or other various instruments to some of these songs
also, which always amazes me after 50 odd years.
One of the biggest '60s hit recording
Liverpool bands, The Searchers, recorded a demo of one of
my old Outer Limits songs called The
Great Train Robbery from the late '60s even though
they never released it. The BBC banned the Outer Limits version
even though the Stones manager Andrew Oldham produced it;
and the West Coast band, The Hondells, did a great 'Beach
Boys' version of Just One More Chance,
another Outer Limits song of mine. Then obviously people like
Elton John and REM covering Yellow River
as well as hundreds of others including Cliff Richard and
Joe Dassin, who was a massive star in France and all French-speaking
territories. Also people like Lobo, various Tejano and Mariachi
bands and a host of bluegrass covers of which the definitive
version for me is the Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver version.
Q: Lorenzo, in addition to being
a musician, you have also been involved in fundraising efforts
and supporting good causes. Can you tell us more about this
work and its importance to you?
LG: I have long been a member of many historical and humanitarian
associations and right now, I am involved with Minds
Behind The Music, in which Jeff too is, along with
other giants like Status Quo, Suzi Quatro, Mungo Jerry etc.
You know, sometimes, it doesn't matter if you're big or not,
if it's a lifelong commitment or one day long; it's the last
stone to build the castle. And well, there's so much injustice
and violence in our world that we have a lot of work to do
but, art is there and hope is here. No matter what.